According to an new ABC News/Ipsos poll, almost half of Americans lack trust that the Justice Department will conduct the Hunter Biden investigation in a “fair and nonpartisan manner.” It is the latest indication of the failure of Attorney General Merrick Garland to restore faith in his department. There is ample reason for citizens to have their doubts.
The poll, conducted earlier this week, showed that 48 percent of Americans are not confident in the investigation. Only 32 percent expressed trust in the integrity and independence of the investigation.
We have previously discussed the failure of leadership at both the Justice Department and the FBI. Attorney General Garland has repeatedly failed to take actions that could address the growing distrust of his department.
The Hunter Biden matter has highlighted Garland’s utter failure at Justice. After ignoring calls from some of us for the need of a special counsel for years, Garland inexplicably appointed, David Weiss, the very same prosecutor who has been accused of running a fixed investigation by whistleblowers and signing off on a sweetheart deal that collapsed in court in a matter of minutes.
The Justice Department is now less trusted by the public than it was under his predecessor, Bill Barr. During Barr’s tenure, Pew found that 54 percent of the public viewed the department favorably, and 70 percent had a favorable view of the FBI. Under Garland, the department’s favorability had declined to 49 percent as of March, before many of the recent failures. The FBI’s favorability has fallen by 18 points to just 52 percent.
Garland’s failure of leadership has undermined key cases. A Harvard-Harris poll this summer showed that 55 percent of the public view the Trump indictment as “politically motivated,” and 56 percent believe that it constitutes election interference.
In making this appointment, Garland seemed to be virtually taunting the public while, again, repeating his Department’s motto as a mantra.
What is particularly glaring is that this widely ridiculed move was done in direct violation of the regulation. Section 600.3 requires an appointment from outside the Justice Department for obvious reasons. While John Durham also came from within the department, he was retiring from the department at the time of his appointment.
More importantly, Garland appointed a prosecutor who has been accused of conflicts of interest and false statements — the very antithesis of a special counsel who is supposed to have “a reputation for integrity and impartial decision-making.”
The appointment flips the regulation on its head and insulates a controversial prosecutor from congressional inquiries while undermining public trust in the investigation.
This is not to say that Weiss is indeed compromised or complicit. We have not heard from him. However, the regulation is designed to avoid such questions or doubts with the appointment of someone without prior history or lingering allegations.
The result of this failure of leadership is that Garland has again lost roughly half of the country and is playing to the same roughly 30 percent that is a constant base for the Administration. By failing to show the strength and leadership at this moment, Garland has deepened the institutional crisis for the Justice Department.